Marcel Bascoulard is born in 1913 in France. He attends the art school of Bourges in the early 1930s. Parallel to his photographic work, he continues to paint and write throughout. He lives on the street at his own will, a self-determined clochard, until he is murdered in 1978 under unclear circumstances. He will remain a landmark of the city of Bourges until his death and is known to this day as “the man who dresses up in women’s clothes.”
His first self-portraits are taken in the early 40s. They show a young man in a dress, only subtly posing, brash yet sober, no makeup. He looks straight into the camera, unapologetically. This look, captured in his photographs as it progressively ages over the course of forty years, is the seemingly asexual invariable in a playful and elaborate interchange of dresses, some sewn by Bascoulard himself, others acquired in exchange for his paintings. It is these brief moments that transfer him into a different time and that enable him to take on a number of female identities: the unmarried young woman and the old spinster, the teacher and the shopkeeper (often holding a piece of broken mirror that resembles a hand-fan or a machete), the housekeeper with an apron and the lady of the house, but also roles that he invents or creates himself, such as the futuristic-looking geisha in vinyl from his later work. When arrested by the police in 1952, Bascoulard replies to the question of why he dresses in women's clothes in public: “It’s an artistic necessity.” Bascoulard's work derives essentially from this necessity: an artistic obsession at the heart of a carefully contrived life that raises questions about gender, identity, and biography.